Almond trees (Prunus amygdalus or Prunuus dulcis), produce one of the world’s mostly widely grown and oldest nuts. These trees grow in temperate regions and belong to the rose family. They resemble the peach tree, producing white or pink flowers in early spring. Their dry leathery fruit surround the almond nut. Although there are two main kinds of almonds, there’s only one type that is edible.
The bitter almond tree (Amygdalus communis, var. amara) is a variation of the sweet almond tree. It has somewhat larger flowers and nearly white-tipped petals that darken into a rose color at the base. This tree produces bitter almonds which should not be consumed, although the oil is used as a flavoring agent. These almonds contain prussic acid, a dangerous toxin, and are mainly grown for extracting almond oil. They have roughly 50 percent of the same oil found in sweet almonds and are starch free. Of the several bitter almond varieties, the best varieties come from south of France, with others originating from Sicily and Northern Africa (Barbary) where the bitter almond is a staple trade item.
Sweet almond (Amygdalus communis or Amygdalus dulcis) trees produce almonds that are safe to eat. This type of almond tree blooms earlier than the bitter almond tree and is more largely cultivated.. Sweet almonds are valuable food sources and used for baking and in medicine. These trees yield a fruit rich in bland oil that’s nutritious. The sweet almonds variety has been tested in both animals and humans, although its effectiveness and safety hasn’t been always proven. Some medical values are believed to be linked with sweet almonds, which include improving cholesterol and for treating anxiety. It’s also used in radiation skin therapy purposes, according to Wellness.com.
There are five main types of standard sweet almond trees.
- Carmel almond trees produce an almond with an excellent quality, with their nuts well-sealed within the shell. According to the University of California, this variety is an excellent pollenizer, meaning the tree provides pollen.
- Mission almonds are productive trees that bloom late and produce hard shelled nuts with short kernels.
- Nonpareil almond trees turn out the most popular of the paper shelled varieties and are inter-fruitful with Mission, Price and Carmel almonds.
- Price almond trees are similar to nonpareils and are good pollenizers.
- The Ne plus ultra almond tree produces large, soft-shelled nuts and is another good pollenizer.
Finally, be sure to enjoy both the experience of planting your almond tree, as well as picking off almonds and then eating them. While some people grow almond trees for eating the tree’s nuts, others just enjoy them for the cosmetic quality they add to a landscape. Regardless of the reason for planting an almond tree, many gardeners have reaped the rewards of cultivating these trees.